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Full disclosure: While I have been relentlessly podcasting about the Phillies since 2015 and writing about the team for even longer, I’m not able to make it out to the ballpark for games all that much anymore.
When you’re a dad with young kids and not a lot of extra money to throw around, it’s often difficult to marshall the resources, both mental and physical, necessary to get everyone to a ballgame.
However, thanks to our outstanding Hittin’ Season tailgate on Saturday, I was able to catch the action in person at Citizens Bank Park — and what I saw there surprised me.
Young people everywhere.
Baseball has long been called an older person’s game. Critics have claimed that the sport is losing young people, that it’s too slow, that it doesn’t provide enough action for today’s plugged-in, video game-obsessed youth. They said baseball was “dying.”
All you have to do is go to a Phillies game at the Bank to know that’s simply not true.
As I discussed on the latest episode of Hittin’ Season, I didn’t conduct a physical count, but I estimate about 70-75% of those in attendance were 35 and under. There were so many teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s.
It looked like the coolest place to be in Philadelphia.
Perhaps this shouldn’t be so surprising — despite the naysayers — as recent trends indicate the sport is bringing in some new fans. Last October, MLB.com outlined a number of indicators signaling young people were paying attention to baseball. You can see it in the stats for social media engagement, broadcast audience, youth participation, and ballpark attendance. What I saw on Saturday night backed that up.
Young people may be done watching any entire sporting event over the course of 2 to 3 hours anymore. Major League Baseball seems to be adjusting to that reality. A person can catch all the important highlights in 3- or 7-minute chunks.
There are certain nuances and joys that are gleaned when one watches the entire game, so that should remain the ideal, but we’ll take what we can get.
While society is moving faster and screens are becoming more the lifeblood of each passing generation, it was comforting on Saturday night to see 25-year-olds just as angry at Bailey Falter’s performance and just as frustrated at Kyle Schwarber’s inability to hit with runners in scoring position as a 46-year-old diehard Phillies sicko like me.
The ballpark is still a place for young people, and that’s awesome to see.